Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors: Fishing, Hunting and Avoiding Divorce on a Small Island by Nelson Sigelman

The hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Martha’s Vineyard every year might think first of the crowded town centers, the busy summertime shops and restaurants, and the quirks and comforts of their various rental properties. But the lucky ones know that the Island is even richer in nature than it is in tourism. From the cliffs of Gay Head to the great ponds dotting the southern shore to Chappaquiddick and the many inlets and bays of Nantucket Sound and Vineyard Sound, to the quiet woods of Chilmark and West Tisbury, nature-lovers can find trails and hidden spots that feel like they’ve been untouched by the waves of human visitors who have been coming to the Island since 1602. Wildlife also abounds on the Vineyard: raccoons, otters, muskrats, deer, seals, a rich variety of birds — and, in the ponds and bays and streams, an abundance of fish.

For 26 years, former Martha’s Vineyard Times editor Nelson Sigelman wrote a regular column filing dispatches from that natural world and chronicling with care the world of fish and fishing that can be found on the Vineyard. Those columns have now been collected in book form, where Mr. Sigelman can be found concentrating on the quieter yet passionate pastime of fishing and the dedicated men and women who indulge in it. Although, in many of his profiles of those men and women, “dedicated” seems like an understatement.

“There are people who like to fish, and there are fishermen,” Mr. Sigelman writes. “The difference is the gulf that separates affection from passion.”

Accompanied by his faithful black Labrador retriever Tashmoo, Mr. Sigelman hunts for striped bass at Menemsha Pond, energetic bluefish in the surf, and tasty bonito wherever they are biting. Some essays travel further afield. For example, in a piece called Contemplating Black Mambas and the Finer Points of Deer Urine, Mr. Sigelman is minding his own business in a deer blind in Chilmark when he finds himself thinking about one of the deadliest snakes in Africa, which “grow to a length of 15 feet, travel up to speeds of 13 miles per hour and unlike many venomous snakes that try to get away from people, will aggressively attack and have been known to give chase.”

Unsurprisingly, he reflects that he is grateful there are no black mambas in Chilmark.

But most of the pieces collected in Martha’s Vineyard Outdoors are no more exotic than the nearest good fishing spot. Mr. Sigelman is often warmly philosophical about his cherished pastime. Commenting that “the best fish we catch are never caught just once” the wonderful moments and memories linger and “come flooding back, sometimes under the light of a full moon far from the sound of the surf.”

His descriptions of his fellow fishing enthusiasts accent eccentricities with a warmth that’s often deepened by the fact that many of them are, as he puts it, now fishing only in spirit. This warmth is the by-product of a fellowship Mr. Sigelman evokes throughout the years of his column: “One of the wonderful things about fishermen,” he writes, “is that no matter what they do or where they come from, there is something that connects them with other fishermen.”